Our Startup in Spotlight series gives a sneak peek into startups that are powering industries using smart technology and cutting-edge solutions.
Last time we brought Sprout Stack – A startup thats revolutionizing the AgTech food industry. For this week, we bring you Hivery – an artificial intelligence company focused on helping companies generate a Return on Retail Space Investment through AI-backed smarts in product recommendations, price learning, space rationalization, and effective promotions.
We interviewed Franki Chamaki, Hivery co-founder and COO on the story behind the Sydney-based IT solutions startup, its challenges and successes, and its lessons for young entrepreneurs.
The Humble Beginnings
Hivery is the coming together of five exceptionally talented people following a big data hackathon event. Partners Franki Chamaki and Jason Hosking were selected as part of an innovation model by the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta to tap into startup thinking.
Its first accelerator was a network of entrepreneurs working in the most innovative cities worldwide to build the next generation of billion-dollar businesses with the support of Coca-Cola.
The job for Franki and Jason was simple: take Coke assets + startup thinking and create a new business model. They did and later called it HIVERY.
After its success with Coca-Cola, they engineered the AI platform and expanded its operations to New Zealand and the United States. With their combined experience in artificial intelligence, big data, and operations research, the team at Hivery broke new ground as a startup geared to propel retail businesses using meaningful data.
Choosing the Niche
It’s common for entrepreneurs to start a business around the latest fad. But, in case of Franki and Jason, they focused on a niche that was unpopular: vending machines.
Hivery’s first product was called Vending Analytics, and the partners wanted to introduce artificial intelligence to an industry that wasn’t seen as popular or ‘cool’. Rather, they wanted to overcome the competitive pressures and rising commodity prices surrounding vending machines.
After all, if they were to put their AI platform’s solutions to the ultimate test, it had to be in an area that was riddled with hurdles. And to their surprise, it was a fantastic decision to scale Hivery’s operations in the retail industry.
We realized the vending machines had a good dataset and an excellent way to use AI to help operators. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside your industry.
Key Milestones and Achievements
Hivery quickly emerged as the go-to AI solutions provider for retail clients. Within just 3 years, its team grew from 5 to 29, in offices across United States and Japan. In addition to that, the company acquired 20 major customers, including Coca-Cola.
Furthermore, Hivery’s AI solutions such as Vending Analytics provides an incredible return of $600 per vending machine, on average, resulting in a return on investment in 6.5 weeks.
Our customers are saying things like “This tool is segmentation and commercialization on steroids, and will help us transform Vending” – CFO of major USA bottler and “We are so close to pulling off a major, disruptive innovation in the category management industry” – Coca-Cola North America category advisor for Walmart.
Challenges and Recipes for Success
Hivery has had its roller-coaster ride of ups and downs and challenges that have put immense strain on startup growth. Some of them include:
- Managing cashflow
- Maintaining staff morale
- Preparing for scale
- Building operational efficiencies
- Protecting IP
- Recruiting right people and
- Maintaining good sales pipeline while meeting existing customer needs
Hivery managed to address its challenges with 5 key methods. These are:
- Focus on something not sexy
- Leverage relationships
- Recruit from within
- Build customer advocacy fast
- Nurture and define the culture
Building the Right Team
An efficient team culture depends on a company’s structure and values. A clearly defined company structure leads to right behaviors and priorities. It also leads to designing the right processes and systems.
At HIVERY we have 4 values that all HIVERIANS embrace. These are: Live passionately, Think entrepreneurial, Have the H-Factor, and Be A Pirate.
These core values are implemented in the way Hivery hires and operates. It helps to offer a strong sense of accountability and transparency through which its employee culture can function smoothly and productively.
Tips for Entrepreneurs in 2018
With new developments in tech such as machine learning, the blockchain, and AI applications, there has never been a better time to be inventive and start your own enterprise. Franki recommends 3 tips to all potential entrepreneurs:
“Firstly, start small and stay very focused on the problem you are solving and who you are solving for. Try to literally build your business with one customer but also think about scalability.
Secondly, remember you need people to help. Talent is your key to turning on the engine. Take care of them.
Lastly, be flexible and employ an experimental mindset. You will never have the answers, keep an open mind and continually get advice from others: mentors, VCs, business folks or even your customers. The only way you can solve your operational/scale problems is to explore it yourself.”